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Independents gain market share as script volumes rise

Independents gaining share of prescriptions at expense of integrated chains

With prescription volumes up 3.3 per cent year on year in the latest data (November 2022), and given well publicised closures among the biggest players, it’s perhaps no surprise to see independents (one to five pharmacies) gaining share at the expense of managed vertically integrated chains, according to the latest analysis of NHS England data by life sciences analytics company IQVIA. 

Speaking at the Sigma conference in March, Carol Alexandre, vice-president, global accounts and clinical trials supplies at IQVIA, said independents were up 4.1 percentage points to 37.9 per cent, while managed chains slid by more than seven, from 30.1 per cent to 22.8 per cent of prescriptions.

In a total market of just over 11,000 active pharmacies in England in November 2022 (a 3.5 per cent decline since the start of the pandemic), independent pharmacy numbers were up 134 (3.5 per cent), with share growth of more than four points. This was “a positive message” for independents, Ms Alexandre said. 

Interestingly, while managed chains had lost seven market share points, their share of pharmacy outlets was down by more than 14 per cent (470) in store numbers.

Among online/distance selling pharmacies (DSPs), Pharmacy2U continues to grow volume, up 13 per cent in the past year. Other DSPs were up by 16 per cent (versus bricks and mortar at 2.4 per cent). Advanced service payments are now trending at over £10 million a month (after stripping out Covid payments). 

Global growth

Ms Alexandre said the global medicines market is expected to grow at between 3 and 6 per cent a year through to 2027 to about $3.7 trillion.

In UK pharmacy, in the three years to 2022, generics (up 1.8 per cent to 52.8 per cent, thanks largely to molecules such as omeprazole, atorvastatin and metformin) and PIs (up 0.7 per cent to 3.9 per cent) were growing share by volume, while both consumer healthcare (-1.2 per cent to 26.8 per cent) and branded ethicals (-1.3 per cent to 16.5 per cent) were in decline. 

Looked at in value terms, only parallel imports had a growing share, up 2.8 per cent to 11.1 per cent, driven by products like Ventolin and Fortisip. Branded ethicals still represent more than half of all spend, but share was down 1.5 per cent to 50.9 per cent. There were modest slides in value terms for generics, down 0.8 per cent to 20.2 per cent, and consumer healthcare, down 0.6 per cent to 17.8 per cent.

While IQVIA does not have access to Amazon sales data, a delegate at the conference said that according to a presentation he had seen recently, the online retailer has a 15 per cent OTC market share, while 65 per cent of all sales of OTC medicines online were fulfilled through the platform.

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